Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Guilty (Hartswood Films, Independent Television Service, BBC-TV, 2013)

by Mark Gabrish Conlan • Copyright © 2016 by Mark Gabrish Conlan • All rights reserved

Despite my overall exhaustion level, I somehow managed to stay awake long enough to watch a program on KPBS: The Guilty, a three-part miniseries from 2013 that was a welcome partnership between the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and Independent Television Service (ITS). It’s a policier set in the British countryside and dealing with a five-year-old cold case, the mysterious disappearance of four-year-old Callum Reid (Daniel Runacres-Grundstrom) after an outdoor barbecue party. The case is suddenly and dramatically reopened when the body of Callum Reid is found buried in the garden of the estate owned by his parents, Daniel (Darren Boyd, who’s actually the hottest guy in the movie) and Claire (Katherine Kelly) Reid. Until then they hadn’t given up hope that Callum would be found and returned to them alive, and had even maintained a Web site in hopes people would use it to log on in case they’d seen anyone who looked like Callum or had any leads that would help finding him. The Reids are also raising another son, Luke (played in the flashbacks to Callum’s life by Teddy Fitzpatrick and in the 2013 present by Jude Foley), who’s older than Callum and is Daniel’s son by his late first wife — and though we’re never told how Luke’s mom died, we are told repeatedly that Luke feels guilty and the apparent loss of his younger half-brother has only made his survivor’s guilt worse.

The central character is police detective Maggie Brand (Tamsin Greig), a quite butch-looking woman whose own marriage to Jeb Colman (Jamie Sives) is strained due to the pressures of her job as well as the crisis facing their own son Sam (Tommy Potten). Sam is now four, the age Collum Reid was when he disappeared, and Maggie was originally assigned to the Collum Reid investigation under a detective named Anderton, an old-schooler whose idea of police work was to arrest the most obvious suspect and browbeat them into confessing. Only Maggie got taken off the investigation because she was pregnant with Sam and her morning sickness was getting in the way of her performance, and Anderton proceeded to fasten onto the Reids’ nanny, Ruth Hyde (Pooky Quesnel — is there really an actress in Britain named “Pooky”?) and her scapegrace boyfriend Jason Byrne (Theo Barklem-Biggs). Jason is indeed a bad guy; when he isn’t sneaking around and trying to have sex with Ruth (and making it a point to inquire what sort of underwear she’s wearing — “tomorrow, nothing,” she promises at one point) in various parts of the Reid property, he’s getting her to steal the Reids’ ATM and their PIN so he can steal from their bank account, since given how they’re living and what they do in their careers (he’s an architect and she’s a schoolteacher), they can afford to lose a little money. (We don’t know for sure what he’s spending it on but we suspect it’s drugs.) The cops arrest Jason and he commits suicide by hanging himself in his cell, but he never reveals what he did with little Callum Reid — and Maggie is convinced he never did anything with Callum Reid since he’s not that sort of criminal. She traces the ex-nanny to a mental hospital in Germany — in this British-produced show it’s startling to see Maggie get into a car with the steering wheel on the left side until we realize that she’s in Germany and the Germans drive on the right side of the road, like we do and the British don’t — and gets crucial information that makes her even more convinced that Jason didn’t do it. Also, since the garden was searched five years before and the body wasn’t where it was found five years later, the criminal had to be someone who was still alive to move the body.

At the end of the second of the three 50-minute episodes (though the BBC has a co-production credit this was obviously originally aired on Britain’s commercial station) Maggie is accosted in a parking garage by a man named Tom Rose (Christopher Fulford), who meets her in the shadows and tells her to follow the mon- — oops, wrong story. He actually attempts to break into her car while she’s trying to drive away, she slams the door and breaks one of his hands, and when she finally stops and asks him what he wants, he demands to be arrested for Callum Reid’s murder. It seems he’s a Gay pedophile who so far had been able to control his urges, but he found Callum such an irresistible little morsel of potential delight he picked the kid up, held him with one arm around the boy’s waist, put the other arm in front of Callum’s mouth to stifle his screams, and inadvertently put too much pressure on the kid’s windpipe, killing him. Tom is taken into custody and then conveniently murdered by a fellow prisoner, thereby leaving the cops with yet another dead guy they can pin the crime on — but Maggie remains convinced that Tom was not Callum’s killer and that Callum’s own dad Daniel had something to do with the crime. Daniel himself is suspicious because while he said he went out for a drive alone the night his son was killed, he left his car keys in his home (where his wife spotted them) and it turns out he was really having an affair with a neighbor, Teresa Morgan (Ruta Gedmintas), who thought he was going to leave his wife for her. Eventually director Edward Bazalgette and writer Debbie O’Malley give the ending away in one of the interminable flashback scenes that mar this movie and keep it stopping dead in its tracks all too often — we see Luke Reid and a mysterious older kid drowning Callum in the Reid family’s bathtub and father Daniel burying the body to cover up the crime instead of risking having one of his sons be prosecuted for the murder of the other. The Guilty was actually reasonably well done but it suffered from an ill-conceived script with all those bizarre and jarring flashbacks getting in the way — though Bazalgette and his cinematographer, Gavin Finney, tried to separate the present from the past by bathing the flashbacks in a rancid orange glow — and also from an ending that tried to be shocking and just seemed dull. Still, it was well acted, particularly by Tamsin Greig as the lead detective (less obstreperously attractive than Mariska Hargitay on Law and Order: Special Victims Unit but also much less annoyingly schoolmarmish) and Ruta Gedmintas, who actually makes the stereotypical “other woman” a figure of real pathos.